it’s a kind of funny story

last night, i watched the movie it’s a kind of funny story. the movie is adapted from the novel by Ned Vizzini,  and the story is inspired by Ned’s personal struggle with depression/suicidal ideation that landed him in a psych ward in 2004. there’s a scene in the movie that takes me back to my days working psychiatry. here’s an excerpt when the psychiatrist facilitates a discussion with the patients on the ward.  the context–Bobby has acted out in the dining room.

DR. MINERVA:  Bobby, it’s okay if you want to keep your feelings private, but you should know it’s perfectly normal to be nervous about your interview tomorrow.

BOBBY:  I’m not nervous about the interview.

HUMBLE:  Then what is it, Bob?

PROFESSOR:  Maybe he’s hungry.

HUMBLE:  He doesn’t look hungry.

BECCA:  He looks tired.

JOHNNY:  Did you sleep last night?

PROFESSOR:  He didn’t eat today.

HUMBLE:  Yes, he did.

PROFESSOR:  Did you see him eat?

HUMBLE:  I’m pretty sure he ate.

JOHNNY:  I didn’t see him eat.

BECCA:  I get anxious when I’m tired.

BOBBY:  Okay, listen!  I’m not hungry. I’m not tired. It’s this damn sweater. My interview is tomorrow and it’s all I have to wear.

JOHNNY (low to Minerva):  I told you it was the interview.

HUMBLE:  It’s a nice sweater, Bob.

BOBBY:  No. It isn’t. It smells like an old woman’s armpit in July.

JOHNNY:  But it looks good on you.

man. this takes me back to when there was structure on the wards. i remember when i facilitated discussions in the commons area, particularly after distressing events. the patients would sit around in a circle and i’d encourage them to talk about what happened. watching the movie, i felt like i was dropped back into that world. the humanity. i found most mentally ill people more caring* than the outside population. loyal. there’s a lot to be said about loyalty. i think that institutions enforce a social simplicity.

Ned Vizzini committed suicide last month, at age 31, leaving his family, including a toddler, behind. this is incredibly sad. i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, suicide is an accident. wait 10 minutes and the ideation/impulse will fade.

i’m sorry he died, particularly for his family. and i’m sorry his writer voice is silenced. i’m reading the novel of the same name today and i’m struck with the voice of the writer. he’s real, tangible, authentic. i think about how few writers have a voice like this, relying, instead, on gimmicks.  being overly clever. repeating themselves in mediocre/meaningless ways.

here’s a terrific podcast interview of Ned Vizzini on Other People podcast:

it’s mental health awareness week. take good care of yourself.

*don’t get me wrong. some mentally ill people are incredibly self-absorbed.